New Album Review: We Are The Nightmare

27 04 2008

I haven’t claimed to be unbiased in my reviews, so I think I should start out this review by saying that Arsis is a little bit of a guilty pleasure. When I listen to them, I can’t help but feel like there is something clandestinely gay about them… like if they had choppy emo haircuts and wrote songs about serial killers then they would be full-fledged deathcore wannabes, and all the teenage girls with raccoon hair would be all over their nuts. Maybe it’s Malone’s voice, maybe it’s the occasionally cheesy melodicism, maybe it’s their always cheesy lyrics.

Anyways, despite all of this I still enjoyed their first three releases (even though United in Regret was mediocre at times), and I had good expectations for this album. And most of them weren’t met. Sure, the title track is catchy enough, what with the band throwing in a melodic little refrain every chance they can. The songs continue on in fairly typical Arsis fashion, always trying a little too hard to be technical, yet still retaining a quality about them that makes them seem fit for it. However, I have to say that the attempt at progressiveness by drummer Darren Cesca muddies up the continuity and flow of the songs. They try to throw in too many un-needed details, and it ends up sounding like a bit of a mess. And I also have to say that there is a strange anemic quality to the guitars as well. In certain parts (especially the intro to “Shattering the Spell”), they just don’t carry the weight they should, and end up being a little whiny. Speaking of which, James Malone…

3/5

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In Other News…

24 04 2008

Everyone loves fried chicken. It’s not just a black people thing. Whites, Asians, Hispanics, African-Americans, Middle Eastern people, Native Americans, whoever you are, get together and get some chicken. Personally, I like mine with a jalapeƱo pepper squeezed on to it, so that the spicy nectar can run all over the chicken and give it some more kick.





Vision

18 04 2008

Last night I was feeling pretty restless, so I decided to hike into the woods behind my house. The air inside was warm and stolid, and as I stepped outside I could smell the sweetness of cherry blossoms coming in for the spring. The winter cold I had felt accustomed to was gone, and in its place new life had stepped forward.

Light in hand, my feet crackling through the twigs and the underbrush, I walked until I could no longer hear any sound but the wind and my own breath. I found a clearing, and it was there that I decided to rest for a while. I sat on a slight incline that seemed as if it were made for me to be there, and I emptied my mind of everything. Occasionally some pseudo-philosophical or limerent thought would cross my mind, but for the most part, I was completely gone. I laid down on a bed of pine needles and stared into the sky, and felt every breath coming in and out of me. For a moment at least, I had left the world behind. Most of all, I was glad that I had found a place to think.

After a while, I decided to let my thoughts trickle back a few at a time. I thought about everyone I knew, and what I would say to them if they were there. I thought about where I would go in the outside world, and how I would live if I stayed. I wished that I could have a fire.





New Album Review: obZen

15 04 2008

When I heard Meshuggah was working on a new album for 2008, needless to say, I was excited. They had set the bar high with Catch 33, and I was eager to see how they could possibly progress from, in my opinion, one of the greatest metal albums of all time. However, that’s where my expectations for this album peaked. After they started releasing information on the album, claiming it would be a return to their thrash roots and a step away from the progressiveness of their last few albums, I felt a little sinking feeling. I felt an even larger one after they released an image of the cover, along with the title of the album. Needless to say, it’s a strangely fake-looking man with three disproportionately large hands covered in blood. And the name they chose was obZen, which doesn’t really mean anything at all.

And then came the fuzzy internet-radio rip of “Bleed”, which kept my interest the same way a 3 hour visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles would. It was at this point I pretty much gave up. How could the band that could always be counted on to defy the convictions of music leave itself behind like this? And then the album came out. With one gleam of boyish hope still left in my heart, I picked up the album in haste.

The first thing that struck me about the album was its sheer heaviness, in all aspects of play and production. The sometimes groovy, sometimes staccato attack of the dual 8-string guitars reaches a level of heaviness higher than I thought even these guys could achieve. The drum production does not disappoint, as it did with Hate Eternal’s Fury and Flames (which was cool enough, but nothing special). Jens Kidman’s harsh yell is the same as it has always been, and still works well, contributing to the intensity of their sound. The most notable tracks on this album are the opener, “Combustion”, which opens sounding like a Tool song and then proceeds straight to thrashy goodness, and the title track, “obZen”, which could be the most crushingly heavy song ever. Maybe.

4/5





Book Fire

15 04 2008

If there is one thing society has stripped from us, it is our desire for the quest. When we can order almost anything we could possibly need from the confines of our own homes, what that takes from us is what we need the most: the journey. The digital age takes us straight to the destination.

If you think about the way our ancestors lived, they would have to walk into the woods or the ocean for their food, and their livelihood. It required a game to be played with nature, survival was sport, and man earned every wonder of life. Man saw such beauty and horror in his existence that he reasoned it could only be the force of a divine creator. Life and love existed as they were intended to be, and man’s struggle against an untimely death pushed him forward to be better. Nowadays, convenience is king. We pick up the phone and order our food, we drive to a place where everything has been collected for us and put on display. Among life and love, life has been put upon us in a way that hides from us what we desire the most.

And as for love, it suffers too. People have become so broken by the new survival game, the 9 to 5, the endless data stream, that they cannot deal with the effort of keeping together a relationship, most likely because we do not have to rely on the support of others anymore to make it. This is why I can watch a pair of ducks in the park that have been mates for their whole lives, but my parents still being married is a rare occurrence among people their age, and much younger.

This is why I believe the youth of our nation act out the way they do. Because we have nothing to believe in, and most of us don’t realize it. Everything is planned out, and whatever we want comes instantly, and this has made us lazy beyond any shred of belief. Societies like this foster not only substance abuse and suicide, they also foster something even stranger, and more abstract to the human experience: art. But even this is coming into question. The most recent example I can remember was walking through the halls of my high school, I overheard something that has become a common theme among my peers.

“I hate these stupid goddamn books they assign us. Reading is pointless and boring.”

Or something to that effect. The irony was that this girl was talking about Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a book in which modern society has outlawed books in order to not have to think about the grand scheme of things, only the distractions and small pleasures offered to them. Having read the book, I saw a lot of parallels between this work of fiction and the world today. Everyone has their headphones in, everyone has walls of televisions and computers to draw them away from the mundane, everyone is disconnected from other human beings. We are questioned harshly when we step outside of the normal sphere of thought. Our hedonism stems from a shallow desire to fulfill what we have lost over time.

It is a lie that what we need the most to thrive is safety. I only see it as a gateway to complacency and weakness. As for myself, I continue to seek out what I love, what I feel peace in, what will give me lasting pleasure, and what I feel will make my life a worthy exchange for death. For now the closest thing I have to this is music, but even that is transistory. Many people would tell me that God will give this to me, but I think it is the mountain.

More Reading: Boredom, Depression, and Purpose





How to Ruin a Classic

14 04 2008

So not to get too negative here, but I ran across something that I couldn’t help but write about.

Just to set the stage, for the last 11 years, I have been a fan of A Tribe Called Quest. While my relationship with hip-hop throughout my life has been a rocky one, I have always enjoyed ATCQ for not only their musicianship, but their consciousness. They rap about social issues, they rap about love, and sometimes they rap about random little everyday things. I don’t have to be black or poor to identify with them as human beings, and to understand their struggles and laugh about them eventually. So the other day I was looking for the video to “Electric Relaxation”.

And this came up:

And here is the original:

Notice a difference in the subject matter? I’ll give you a hint: one of them is a clever dialogue about the difficulties of hooking up, and one of them is about how Kanye West thinks he’s Black Jesus. Now, I have to admit, I enjoyed The College Dropout when it came out, even after “Jesus Walks” and “All Falls Down” were played on repeat everywhere I went. The lyrics were heartfelt, and they meant something. And then it got huge, and so Kanye assimilated into the crowd of ringtone-slingers who’s lyrics are the verbal equivalent of SYOD. Just read some of the comments people post on this, they say it best:

omegamanGXE: “This was fucking garbage, fuck you Kanye West for shitting on this classic.”

wickedpepper: “I almost don’t believe that is him .. no way he could do something this insulting and rancid”

mattdh12: “their voices/lyrics dont fit at all. the beat is what the title suggests, relaxing. right from the start theyre in your face. “we’ll whack ya down” come on, ridiculous.”

fantasiaP: “wow…u realise how different rap is now from back in the day…in terms of topic i mean their flow is good though not better that Tribe, but there just self praising, and money worshipping, back in the day it was true to life, their rhymes brought u into their lives, I think they disgraced a lyrically good song with their thrash…this isnt electric relaxation…shud change the name to electric bling bling…what happened to hiphop man…”





Renascent

13 04 2008

It’s difficult to write under such a heavy amount of noise, so I’ll keep this short.

I suppose this is as good a place as any to leave my writings, so here it is, for all of your enjoyment. I had another blog a long time ago, but I suppose I deleted it, in the thinking that in order to properly grow up, I had to delete my childhood. But I will bring things forward from that era of my life and put them here in order to laugh at them, and to convince myself that I have improved as a person over the years.

Hah.

So here it is, not entirely physical, but still tangible enough.